Friday, 14 May 2010

Switching to the Left

The techniques described in Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards claim to help achieve competency in art by setting tasks that tune into the creative, intuitive and artistic right side of the brain. (Not sure how this works for left handed people like me but I'm running with the general principle). I want to share how I've used this book over many years for my own enjoyment and as a source of inspiration for therapy with individuals and groups. The link shows the old version of the book which I own but I see that there is a new edition and also a workbook which may be worth checking out.

Unlike my lovely brother, Paul, I am not a naturally talented artist. (See his art at  and if you're single and think you'd make a great sister in-law for me check this link out too!)  In fact, I was put off doing anything artistic for years because I couldn't come up with anything nearly as good as the stuff that he produced.  Then my philosophy changed to a 'To Hell with It' approach and I started to try things for their own sake and found that I could have fun doing things I wasn't necessarily brilliant at.

This drawing represents the baseline i.e. the usual standard of my art.  It's a self portrait and I'd be the first to admit that it's not great (especially that ear!).  But then the book encourages you to try and copy things upside down to allow the right brain to work.   Some line drawings are provided in the book for this exercise but I was so pleased and surprised with the results that I obtained  that I moved onto copying photographs with light and shadow thrown into the equation.

I think you'll agree that the end result obtained from this exercise is a vast improvement on  my earlier efforts and lead me to think about how this activity could be used therapeutically in my work.  It can be 'sold' as an exercise that is non threatening to people who can't draw or who've lost confidence in their ability.  If it doesn't work out then duh!!! it's because they've tried to draw something upside down.    But normally people's expectations are exceeded, except if they're especially anxious,and like me they're pleasantly surprised with their efforts.  I've found that this generates a sense of success which can be a  greater motivator to help kickstart a creative process and helps them to explore their artistic side further.

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